The first thought that crossed Indra Jagannathan's mind when she was diagnosed with cancer in May 2006 was: ‘Why me?'.
Over the years, the illness has taken her through many stages — from disbelief, acceptance, resolve to fight, and finally to the gift of a “second life”. She lost her oesophagus in the process, but pretty much nothing else.
“It is always up to us to decide what to do with our circumstances,” says the 40-year-old homemaker. “I had decided that I had to fight the cancer. If not for myself… at least for my 10-year-old son,” she adds. She was just coming out of a spinal surgery when the oesophageal (food pipe) cancer was detected, when she went to the doctor complaining she burped too much in public. “It was embarrassing,” she says. Her food pipe was surgically removed to prevent the cancer from spreading, and the stomach wall was pulled up and attached to the throat. It was followed by a round of chemotherapy. “Fortunately, the cancer took hold of something that could be removed,” she says with a laugh. “It was an ordeal, but I went through it.” Life is the same as it used to be, though each New Year is treated with much reverence. The only difference is that she has to take rich iron foods to ease passage down her food pipe — “because of the small anatomical change in my body”, as she puts it.
These days, she counsels other cancer patients on how to handle the disease. “Be courageous and fight it,” she tells them. “I did just that and I am alive.”